20 September 2012

Making your novel look good

by Anna Davis Writing Tips

When you’re getting the sample material from your novel ready to submit to literary agents or to a creative-writing course, it’s worth taking time over how you set it out on the page.

Think about it: literary agents have a lot of reading to do. Obviously they won’t take you on just because the work looks pretty on the page, but it stands to reason that your submission will be a more attractive reading prospect if it looks professional, unfussy and, yes, bookish. There’s nothing less enticing than a bunch of single-spaced un-numbered pages in tiny font with messy formatting. In particular:

  • Choose a clear, simple font and don’t make it too tiny.
  • Set double or one-and-a-half spacing between lines.
  • Set out your dialogue properly. New line and indent for new speaker.
  • Check your spelling and grammar.
  • Number your pages, and put your name and the novel’s title in the header.
  • Indent your paragraphs, the way it’s done in books. If your word-processing package defaults to automatically add extra spaces after paragraphs, change the default. This one is a particular pet hate of mine when reading typescripts. Extra spaces create strange artificial pauses and really do have an adverse effect on the reading experience. The two-line drop is a useful tool for the novelist but the reader doesn’t want to encounter one every few lines – Remember, it’s a novel, not a business letter!

It all sounds obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how many people don’t think about this before they send their work off to literary agents. The message is a simple one: Make it look like a book.

As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our novel-writing courses offer dedicated modules on submitting your novel to literary agents – and include sessions on writing a synopsis and preparing a covering letter. Click for more information or to apply for our creative writing courses.

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